This is Part I of a two-part series on my experiences printing my short story collection one bad twelve. This initial post covers the reason for printing my title, why I went with CreateSpace, and some beginning knowledge you might need if you want to do so yourself.
In a recent blog post, writer and publisher Dean Wesley Smith talked about the importance of making sure your writing is available in print as well as digitally. E-readers, he points out, are the wave of the future, but,
“…electronic publishing is hovering around 20% of all books sold. Higher in some genres, lower in others, higher in some months, lower in others. That means in general that 80% of all books sold are paper, through either online bookstores like Amazon or indie bookstores or box stores.”
Put aside for a moment the romance of having your own words professionally printed and resting in your trembling little paws–surely a dream of every writer out there–Dean’s numbers are a clear reminder: we’re not in the future yet. It’s understandable that most indie authors are eating, sleeping, and breathing digital right now; it’s the format that’s easiest to break into and the one that, with a few clicks, can result in instant gratification (and, let’s face it, money). But a writer would be foolish to ignore an entire market–the print market–for his or her work, especially when the tools to go to print are so readily available.
So…I threw my hat in the print ring this week by going to CreateSpace and taking a shot with my short story collection one bad twelve. And, despite a background in web design with a little dabbling into print work, I found a few challenges that I hadn’t anticipated. Overall, I was amazed at how easy the process was, but there enough pitfalls to the process that I created a checklist.
There are better and more comprehensive guides to Createspace and certainly most questions can be answered by searching the CreateSpace community board, but I hope some of my thoughts are of help, as well.
I’d heard very good things about the ease of use of CreateSpace, the support through the community, and–of course–the fact that it is a division of Amazon doesn’t hurt. I can’t compare it to competing services (LightningSource and Lulu), but I can say the workflow and entire process is straightforward, well documented, and supported. Being entirely web-based, your project requires no software to download, is saved as you go, and can be worked on in stages.
CreateSpace extends a helping hand precisely when it’s needed. One of the more intimidating hurdles in printing your work is page layout. It’s easy enough to pick a “trim size” (overall size of your book), but when it comes to formatting your Word document to fit precisely into those dimensions–with the thought that any mistakes might result in your novel having all the right-most words chopped in half–things can get dicey.
Although CS offered boilerplate templates for my chosen trim size, I wanted to see what would happen if I simply gave them my source document to work with. I uploaded my standard 8.5 x 11 Word file, asked the CreateSpace wizard to try it, and received an immediate error. Instead of leaving it at that, however, the wizard reconfigured my document into the pre-existing template for my chosen trim size, and offered it for download. I grabbed it, opened it up, and had a functional document with exactly the correct dimensions (including proper left/right gutters) in about 3 minutes.
The Tools You’ll Need
I’m lucky enough to have worked as a web-designer and a wife who has too, so I’ve got a lot of the skills that make the overall process easier, but spend some time learning the intricacies of Word and a few graphic skills (or farm out the cover work to a designer), and you should be fine.
For Word, you should be comfortable:
- Working with Styles
- Using Sections and Page Breaks and how Sections relate to each other
- Using Headers and Footers
- Manipulating kerning and leading (line spacing)
If you’re going to do your own covers, at a minimum you should:
- Understand the concept of resolution (dpi), especially the differences between screen and print resolutions
- Know how to use layers in the graphic program you use*
- Be comfortable manipulating type and moving selections
* You don’t need to spend a thousand dollars on a graphic suite, but you also won’t get great results in MS Paint. You’re probably looking for programs such as Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Paint Shop Pro, or GIMP (check this article for free image editing software).
That’s it for a start! Part II will cover the “short list” of tips and tricks that helped me get my title to CreateSpace.